Benedict XVI: World Communications Day Messages

Pope Benedict Tweets

Pope Benedict Tweets

You probably saw the pictures of Pope Benedict XVI sending a tweet from his iPad as he became the first Pope to join Twitter in December of 2012. Twitter was rightfully excited, of course, because what social network would pass up the chance for that kind of publicity? Previous popes had sent letters, appeared on TV, talked on the phone, and Pope John Paul II even had an email account, but Benedict would be the first in the history of the church to have a Twitter account. With his @Pontifex Twitter handle, anyone in the world with a Twitter account could contact him directly and possibly even expect a response.

What you may not have known was that this unprecedented event was a carefully thought out response from Pope Benedict XVI to a changing media landscape. For the seven years leading up to his first tweet, Benedict released his annual messages for World Communications Day, on January 24th. In each message, Benedict offered guidance, reflection, and meditation on living a Christian life as a citizen of an increasingly digital world and the Vatican has recently released them as a collection in ebook form:

Click here for: ePub Version for eBooks

Click here for: Kindle Version

In his message for 2012, Benedict discussed the importance of creating time for silent reflection. For Benedict, one of the reasons for silent reflection is so that one may be a better participant in social media. He says, “in concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives.” It’s here, about a year before Benedict’s first tweet, that we get a hint of his appreciation for networks like Twitter.

On January 24th of this year, just over 2 months after having joined Twitter, Pope Benedict’s message focused on digital social networks. He calls them “portals of truth and faith,” and “new spaces for evangelization,” while pointing out the challenges that social networks raise, including a tendency to drown out “the gentle voice of reason” with “the din of excessive information.” He encourages all Christians to witness through patient and respectful engagement with others in their search for meaning and truth, since, as he noted in his message for 2012, the constant flow of questions online is a symptom of human restlessness.

Pope Benedict’s reflections are an edifying read for Christians looking to live their faith even online and will inspire you  to reflect on digital communication, silence, and the proper way to balance the two. Download them for you favorite e-reader and let us know what you think.

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About the Contributor

Benjamin Robertson

Benjamin Robertson
Benjamin Robertson is a founding editor at Second Nature. He has worked in advertising for the Chicago Tribune and Gannett, and now is a web developer at Up&Up. He studied Communications and Media Studies under Dr. Read Schuchardt at Wheaton College in Illinois. He has presented papers on Marshall McLuhan, media ecology, and Christianity at the Media Ecology Association, National Communication Association, and the McLuhan's Philosophy of Media Centennial Conference in Brussels. He lives with his wife, Ruth, in Greenville, SC. His personal website is benjamingrobertson.com

Comments

  1. Joseph McDonald says:

    Thanks, Benjamin, fro bringing these messages to our attention. Good stuff.

    My chief pastor emeritus, His Holiness Emeritus, Benedict XVI, writes with much insight and his message for the 46th World Communications Day, “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization” on Sunday, 20 May 2012, is full of saintly wisdom and encouragement. As Ellen Rose notes in her, On Reflection, silence is crucial to learning and to the conduct of life, generally.

    A late Catholic and Thomistic scholar of some considerable note and merit also wrote with great insight, “Environments are not just containers, but are processes that change the content totally,” Marshall McLuhan (Eric McLuhan & Frank Zingrone, editors, Essential McLuhan, (New York: Routledge, 1997), p 275. How might the the new media environments, engaged in with silence or not, change the content of the gospel? Neil Postman noted television reduced the gospel to entertainment (Amusing Ourselves to Death?). Can, or does, the new media offer opportunities for sustained, silent-on-the-inside reflection that tells the world, “Be still and know that I am God?”

    I assume Pope Francis isn’t texting as he tools around Rome in his 1984 Renault, and, in any case, one does not get elected pope without having spent a lifetime in silent prayer and deep reflection (not in recent centuries, at any rate.) I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will move the Church and her leaders to consider the “new media” more critically and carefully than seems evident among her lesser functionaries (iPads for mass, anyone?), so far, and to speak not so much with Christendom’s circumspect Vatican diplomacy as with Spirit-inspired Pauline (I’d even settle for Augustine) directness and candor.

    • Benjamin Robertson says:

      Those are all good questions Joseph, and we hope to continue to explore them here at Second Nature.

      I’d also add that McLuhan said, “The question, therefore, that needs to be decided in our time is whether the entire Greco-Roman inheritance which had been the early cultural matrix of the Church can now be seen in the electric age as a mere expendable husk” in The Medium and the Light.

      The trick is to figure out what parts of our experience of Christianity are the ‘husk.’ What is specific to the media environment of our time and place in history and not inherent in Christianity? But then again, is it really possible to separate the two?

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